Did you know that a 5% rise in client retention can lead to a 75% increase in profitability? 

Building good relationships with your clients from the very beginning is the first step to retaining them. You want to get off to a good start and lay the foundation for the rest of your partnership. Asking the right questions is an excellent way to do that.

This guide will list eight questions to ask new and prospective accounting clients to help you (and them) get the most out of your relationship, including:

  • Were you using an accountant before? If so, why are you switching?
  • What type of business do you run?
  • Do you have employees or inventory?
  • What financial accounts do you have, and how often do you update them?
  • Are you up to date on your tax filings?
  • What challenges or obstacles do you normally face?
  • What systems do you use for invoices and bills?
  • What accounting software do you use?

Questions to ask your new accounting clients 

Knowing what questions to ask new clients will help you hit the ground running in your partnership. Here are eight questions that will give you valuable insight into their business and what they want:

  1. Were you using an accountant before? If so, why are you switching?

Asking new and potential clients this question can give you valuable insight into how well your competition’s doing and your client’s attitude towards accounting professionals. If your new client has good reasons for switching accountants, their answer will give you an idea of what they expect. For example, if they needed someone who specialises in small business accounting.

However, there are some red flags to listen out for. For example, if the client:

  • Has jumped from firm to firm.
  • Blatantly bad-mouths other accountants.
  • Doesn’t want to share specifics about why former accountants didn’t meet their requirements.

These signs could all indicate that the client might have unreasonable expectations, poor communication skills and can’t collaborate.

  1. What type of business do you run?

This is the most fundamental question you need to ask a new client before getting down to the real job. You need to know if the company is a sole trader business, limited company, or a partnership to ensure you offer the appropriate service package.

Additionally, you need to find out about the history, including what the business does, how your client started it, who their competitors are, their policies and values, and so on. Asking about the business is also a great conversation starter and can give you plenty of information right away.

  1. Do you have employees or inventory?

This is another important aspect you need to find out about your client’s business. Payroll can complicate matters if the client hasn’t taken the necessary steps to make sure it’s done correctly. 

If your client has employees, you’ll need to ask additional questions to find out how they process payroll. For example, do they already have a payroll service provider, or do they want you to handle payroll schedules and tax payments? 

Additionally, inventory accounting may require specialised expertise, and the degree of complexity can vary significantly from one business to another. 

Businesses with employees might need more work you need to plan for, so the earlier you ask this question, the better.

  1. What financial accounts do you have, and how often do you update them?

Since it’ll be your job to help manage your client’s financial accounts, you need to find out how many accounts you’ll deal with. Is it only personal and business bank accounts, or does the client also have savings, investment accounts, car loans or leases, mortgages, and so on?

Asking this question will help you assess how much time you’ll need to devote to preparing and reconciling their monthly statements.

  1. Are you up to date on your tax filings?

As an accountant, you know how tedious and time-consuming tax preparation can be. This is a question you should ask as early as possible, preferably before you even sign on the client. You don’t want to work with a client that has any malpractices regarding tax filing. 

However, asking new clients this question will also help you gauge how much work you have to do with them to get their books up to date. While you’re at it, ask about their sales tax and filing procedures. Do they file these taxes monthly, quarterly, or annually? 

  1. What challenges or obstacles do you normally face?

New accountants can often ignore this question, but it’s one of the most important inquiries to make into a new client. Asking about their challenges will tell you whether the issue lies with their accounting software, bookkeeping services or activities, or business goals. 

Make a note of the client’s biggest pain points, and explain how you can help them overcome these obstacles. 

  1. What systems do you use for invoices and bills?

Asking clients about the current method they use for handling their accounts receivable and accounts payable will give you crucial insight into the work you’ll need to do each month. For example, if the client uses Word documents and Excel to track transactions, you’ll need to reinvent those in your accounting system. 

It’s also good to find out what they use for processing payments to vendors. Do they use bank transfers, PayPal, manual invoices, or something else? It’s important to know what payables system the client expects you to use. 

  1. What accounting software do you use?

Does your client have experience managing their own accounting and bookkeeping? In that case, ask what accounting software they prefer to use for the process. 

If your client’s current accounting software is outdated, you can always ask them to move to a cost-effective and time-saving solution like Countingup and help them with the transition.

Save time with new clients and Countingup

You can save your practice time on manual admin and help your clients keep organised records with Countingup’s free accounting software. It’s built specifically to help you manage your self-employed and sole trader clients. 

The software is MTD-compatible and full of features for accountants to review and manage client accounts efficiently, with direct access to their real-time organised data. 

Find out more here.

Related Resources

Read more